Adventure Week #6: Batman and Tarzan: Claws of the Cat-woman

27 Jul

One definition of a forgotten book is forgetting you even have a copy. As I leafed through all of my graphic novels, I stumbled upon Batman and Tarzan: Claws of the Cat-woman. Since I’ve read and written about the first three Tarzan novels, of course I’d select this book. This is the new Tarzan Blog. (No, not really, but those of you who only read my FFB entries certainly might think so.)

In comicdom, Dark Horse Comics owns the rights to Tarzan nowadays. Ten years ago, they teamed him up with DC’s Batman. Hmm: two rich guys, both lost their parents early on (at least Bruce knew his), both patrol their respective “jungles,” what’s not to like? I have to say, going in, I was wondering how much of the Burroughs world was going to make it in the book. A good amount, really.

The story takes place in this kind of nether world: the time is vague, Batman exists in Gotham, and John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, aka, Tarzan, is a famous figure, having had his exploits written by “a writer” (that’d be your ERB wink). Bruce Wayne has financed an expedition to Africa and Finnigan Dent (note the name) brought back some rare artifacts to be displayed in the new Thomas and Martha Wayne wing of the natural science museum. Later that night, a person dressed as a cat breaks into the museum and Batman stops her. And then Tarzan, decked out in a white (!) loincloth *in Gotham*(come on, at least let it be leather; and why a loin cloth? You’d think he’s just take off his shoes or something.) waylays Batman. No sooner does Tarzan figure out who Batman really is (can’t hide your scent) than a band of Masai warriors attacks them. Battle ensues.

Here’s where we get the typical posturing when two characters meet for the first time. If you’ve read the Tarzan books, you know he kills his enemies if that’s the only way to protect those around him. In Gotham, he’s about to throw a warrior off the roof when Batman stops him. “No murder in my city.” (You know where this is going, right?) The different dynamic duo win and discover the “cat woman” is Princess Khefretari of the hidden city of Memnon. Mr. Finnigan Dent (there’s that name again) looted the city and plans to return to finish the job. To the Batplane, Tarzan!

Predictably, Batman and Tarzan have to travel on foot to get to the hidden city. There are some humorous (and weird) episodes along the way. When they first land, Bats is taken aback with Tarzan’s pet lion. I mean, really! If Bats knows who Greystoke is, then he’s got to know the man is at home with wild animals. Cut to a later scene when Bats thinks the bull ape is friendly…and gets himself nearly beaten to death. It takes Tarzan’s fighting abilities to save the day.

Naturally, Finnigan Dent tries to kill our heroes but not before said lion rends one half of Dent’s face. Yes! Now I know where I know the name. Dent now has, say it with me: two faces. There are enough escapes and fights to make any fan of pulp fiction happy. The best one is when our heroes are chained together and thrown into the alligator pool. After their escape (giving nothing away here), you have the single best frame of the book. Tarzan, bleeding from a shoulder wound, is stopped by Bats for a field dressing. Igor Kardey’s art shows Tarzan, eyes rolling, head tilted, assenting to Batman’s ministrations, with one line, “Very well.” This from a man who had part of his scalp torn from his head in the first book. Next, Tarzan compliments the field dressing. Batman’s reply: “I’ve had practice.” So much said in so few words.

It’s a fun story although far from earth-shattering. The art is well done. Kordey gives Batman black eyes most of time, a neat take on the standard white. Tarzan is rendered fantastically, all muscles yet haunted eyes. You have a lot of little moments (like the field dressing scene) that pay homage to various things in each character’s past. I remember reading it back in the day but, as I mentioned before, forgot I even had it. Come Christmas, I’ll probably forget it again. But, as part of my All Things Tarzan mode I’ve been in, I enjoyed it and would like to read another adventure with these two quintessential heroes.

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